This is a guest post written by Rachel Wilkerson. Rachel is a blogger, writer, social media consultant, and former sorority girl. She works for web startup Beckinfield.com while contributing to brands like Levi’s and U by Kotex. You can read her daily life lessons at www.RachelWilkerson.com and follow her on Twitter @RachelGettingIt.
When I was in college, I ran all the recruitment activities for my sorority, and I loved it. It was a hectic time — the "parties" during which we met potential new members (PNMs) were simultaneously carefully choreographed and incredibly unpredictable. In the weeks leading up to recruitment, I led my chapter through hours of workshops to prepare everyone for the process of meeting hundreds of new girls and hoping that every single one of them wanted our house. Sure, it was tiring, but "We Rush Hard" was our motto.
My sorority girl days are over, but I believe getting people to read your blog isn't so much different than getting girls to think your sorority house is fabulous. Here are five things sorority girls can teach you about blogging.
1. Know who you want.
One of the best workshops I ever created was called “Finding Your Perfect PNM,” in which we described our "perfect" new member. We talked about all the details, from what she looked like to what her dream job was. We knew we couldn't get good girls to join our sorority if we didn't all agree on what we were looking for. In the same way, the "Find Your Perfect Reader" exercise can help you get more blog readers. Instead of saying, "I want more readers," focus on the specific audience you think will get the most out of your blog, and then really seek them out and create content that targets them specifically.
2. First impressions count.
I know I’m totally reinforcing the "shallow" stereotype of sorority girls, but I’ll admit that we were perfectly aware that appearances mattered during recruitment. It wasn't that everyone had to be a perfect 10, but we definitely put our best faces forward. We paid attention to the details, because we knew girls would be more excited to hear what we had to say if we looked polished and pulled-together. In the same way, your blog's design and layout is your chance to make that great first impression. Does it need a manicure or have its split ends trimmed? Sure, it's about as fun as getting a wax, but you do have to put some time and effort into your blog's "outer beauty."
3. Make people feel at home.
On the day we gave PNMs tours of our house, we wanted them to be able to see themselves living with us. This would be the place they'd call home for two years, and we wanted them to feel comfortable there. In the same way, you should be welcoming to your readers. Whether it's making yourself easily accessible via email and Twitter, responding to more comments, or simply creating an "About" page that conveys warmth and enthusiasm to the reader, take the time to really welcome people and let them know you'd love it if they came back more often.
4. Emphasize what makes you great...
During recruitment workshops, we spent a lot of time talking about all the great things our chapter had to offer. Whether it was our cook's amazing grilled cheese sandwiches or our house's intercom system, we had a long list of things we could casually mention that made our house special. In the same way, you can design your blog to highlight what makes it special. And truthfully, it doesn't have to be that special. Just like most sorority houses had cooks, most bloggers have an area of expertise, and it may not even be all that special. But highlighting your Q&A section or most informative posts with a link on your homepage sends a message that you do this well and that people can consider you an expert in that area.
5. …but don't be ashamed of who you are.
As much as I wanted girls to love our house, I made sure our members knew that being real is more important than telling PNMs what they wanted to hear. Sure, we could spin everything and make it sound like we were perfect, but most girls wanted to join a house where they felt like they could be themselves. In the same way, don't spin everything you do and create an image of yourself that's perfect; your readers want to feel like you are who you say you are. When answering a question or tackling a tough topic, don't just say what you think they want to hear. Say what's real.
Contrary to popular belief, sorority girls are interested in more than just frat guys and Greek Week. We care about our houses and want new members who will love our house as much as we do. And as a blogger, there is more to you than just top ten lists or a cool header. You love your blog and want people to read it and become a part of your community — so rush them hard!